30 September, 2013

Musing About Disability, I

Minority Report
Missing Extremities
These three posts are not prerequisites for reading what follows, but they will offer you a greater context. The image is of the conductor to the LGB train that runs around my Christmas tree - at least after the dog welcomed him home.

I had been asked to relate the themes of independence, dependence, and interdependence to the larger issue of disability. I quickly remarked that I was uncertain I have ever felt really dependent, but I knew that I would not like being fully dependent upon another person.

There is very little in my life that I cannot do, although the list is growing. There are things that others do for me, but that is primarily because I can be lazy. The things I can do for myself that I let others do - well, there was a time when I could not do these things, and that is generally when the other individual began to do them. It just continued. There are days when I feel stronger, and I could certainly do some of those things. I imagine tying my shoes, my sneakers, is about the only thing in my life that I absolutely cannot do. I can even still tie a necktie with one hand if need be. It is, however, a marvel of digital dexterity to watch.

I also drive a car with a manual transmission. I probably should not be - according to many people. I have to let go of the steering wheel when I shift gears, but that is not as bad as it might sound. If you think about it, most shifting occurs at slower speeds, and it is only for a second or two that I let go. I have learned shift earlier than one might normally shift or later than one might normally shift so that I am shifting when it is safer to let go of the steering wheel. For example, I never shift while I’m turning my car. Nor do I like the idea of being without a car, although I could always get a car with an automatic. A car is a necessity here, and if I could not drive, I think I would have to consider moving to an area with better public transportation. I cannot imagine being home bound.

I am certain I would dislike having to be completely dependent up on another for some aspect of my life. When I say that, I find myself thinking about the elderly who are so resistant to giving up their drivers' licenses – even when there are significant safety concerns. I understand their fear that when they most need to do something, the someone they rely on to help them might not be there.

That feeling of helplessness is a miserable place to be, and I can easily imagine individuals with significant challenges, individuals who rely upon others to help them with genuinely fundamental tasks, experience similar fears.

Take the time to ask if and how you might help someone with challenges, but don't be surprised if your offer is rejected.